Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Deep Fryer Trial

One Sunday, I decided to put two new kitchen gadgets to use at once. That is the multi chopper (see the outlet post for a picture) and the 3.5 liter Bella Cucina Deep Fryer. What better than french fries to christen these two items.

I bought a bag of Idaho potatoes, scrubbed them and put them right into the chopper. I didn't have the best leverage to get the potatoes through the chopper on the counter, so my husband made all the fries as I washed the potatoes. I left the skins on because I prefer it that way and it doesn't hurt that it saves me the time of peeling all those potatoes!

I preheated the fryer to 325 and submerged each batch in the oil for about 10-12 minutes. This step cooks the potatoes all the way through, but does not result in the crunchiness associated with french fries. This is a blanching step, but unlike blanching most other vegetables in boiling water, it is done in oil. I drained the fries and turned the heat up to 375 for the final cooking.

The good thing about the double frying is that the first one can be completed and the fries stored in the fridge or freezer until the next step. This is how it is often done in a restaurant setting, according to my Professional Cooking Textbook.

The second frying is much shorter, just enough to get a pale golden color on the fries. For crunchier fries, they can be left in the oil longer. This took about 5 minutes in my fryer, though the time is slightly variable depending on how full the frying basket is. The more fries in the basket, the longer it takes. The temperature drops further when more fries are present, and it takes a bit longer to cook all the fries through to the desired doneness when there are more in the basket.

After draining and a toss in salt, the first french fry experiment was complete...and tasty! It will take a few tries to get a good feel for the exact times for frying, but keeping an eye on it worked well enough.

Since the bag of potatoes was 5 pounds, there were quite a few fries left over. Most of the leftovers were stored in the fridge after the first frying (possibly to be frozen). The double fried fries were placed in an airtight container overnight. We reheated them in a 425F oven until crispy. I wasn't paying enough attention so they got a little crispier than I wanted, but they were still good.

So the first time for both the fryer and the chopper went really smoothly. I think the only snag left is finding a container to dispose of the used cooking oil. I will see what I can find. But other than that, I think both are great additions to my kitchen...now I just need to find a place to store them both!!!

A belated birthday gift

My mom bought me a cookbook off of QVC (her favorite channel!!) for my birthday and it came in the mail today. I knew something was coming, but I wasn't sure what kind of book it was. It is the 'Taste of Home Cookbook.' It is setup a lot like my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook; a three ring binder set up with a large variety of recipes. Some of the recipes are submitted by the public and others came from their test kitchens. I only glanced through it briefly tonight, but I am really looking forward to spending more time really going into the details of this book. Hopefully it will help me think about flavor combinations and in the long term, help me develop better recipes of my own.

Fun at the Outlets

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the Premium Outlets in Dawsonville, GA. The main reason was to use up the remaining money on a Williams Sonoma gift card we had left over from the wedding and there is an outlet there. Most things are 20-30% off, which was a big draw to make the 45 minute drive up there rather than 20 to the regular store closer by. So between Williams Sonoma, Le Gourmet Chef and Kitchen Connection, I made out like a bandit!

- Wusthof Culinar Santoku knife 4179, pictured above: (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-culinar-7-inch-santoku-knife/?pkey=e|wusthof%204179|101|best|0|1|24||22&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules)
- Multi chopper, see picture above
- Medium size cookie scoop, so I don't have to combine two scoops for my cake truffles.
- 18" pastry bag
- silicone pastry brush
- small paring knife with a shield
- stainless steel salt and pepper grinders
- meat mallet/tenderizer
- flat whisk

Interestingly, I was unable to find round biscuit cutters, the only ones there were fluted. I think that a smooth round cutter would be better for my crab turnovers than a fluted one. So I am stuck with using a glass for now. I'm sure I can find some at Walmart or Target, if I remember to look for them the next time I am there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday List-Update

I have reposted below my list of birthday wishes so that I can update it a bit. I plan on heading up to the Williams Sonoma outlet this weekend to pick up things like the knives, biscuit cutter, cookie scoop, pepper mill or whatever I can come up with to use the remainder of the Williams Sonoma gift card we have left over from the wedding.

Birthday List
The previous post got me to thinking about my birthday wish list, that maybe I should write all this down. So here goes:

- 'On baking', or 'baking and pastry: mastering the art and craft'...either textbook would be great, I just want a professional baking text like my professional cooking book. GOT IT! Yay! My husband got me 'on baking' for my birthday. He said he felt weird getting me a textbook as a gift, but knew I would like it (and I do!!).
- 10x10 tent (for the farmers market I hope to join next year)
- two 6' tables (for the farmers market)
- cash box of some sort (farmers market)- GOT IT! My mom got me two nice wooden cigar boxes to use, one light wood and the other black.
- a small fryer, nothing huge since I don't fry things often and you need to replace the oil all the time anyway. Something for small batches for 2-3 people. GOT IT! Actually, I bought this for myself the week before my birthday. It was on sale at Macy's and I had a coupon on top of that, so I just went ahead and bought myself a gift.
- a meat pounder
- 3" biscuit cutter
- small kitchen torch- GOT IT! Another gift for my husband, though I think he was much more hesitant to give me a flame for my birthday than a textbook!
- two high quality knives: 8" chef's knife and a paring knife
- pepper grinder: I keep going through those McCormick disposable ones, I think its time for a reusable one I can refill
- My K-cup: so I can use my own coffee in me Keurig brewer. GOT IT (sorta). My mother in law had a coupon for Kohl's and I have heard that she bought us one of these as a late birthday gift.
- cute apron
- a small piggy bank: this was actually a suggestion from a coworker, so that I can set that out when I bring things in to share. It wasn't my idea, but if people go for it, I will certainly not object
- cheese making book
- some sort of book(s) on getting started in a farmers market or small restaurant. Getting soon! I asked one of my brothers for a gift card to amazon.com to go towards some of the books that I want. There are three in particular that I have on my wish list and if you buy all three at once, the cost is only $60. That is more than I would ask for for a gift, so I just asked for a gift card so that I could put the money towards the books.
- a kitchen where I can get a license
- small food truck, about the size of an ice cream truck

Ok, so maybe the last two are a bit of a stretch, but it can't hurt to ask!! You can't get what you want without putting it out there, can you? You never know who might be listening or what might happen!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Its Birthday Cake Time!!!

Yay!!! Its that time of year for my husband's birthday. He wanted me to make him a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He really isn't too demanding or fancy in his tastes.

I made the yellow butter cake in two 9" round cake pans and didn't run into anything unusual or noteworthy. I added more vanilla than just a teaspoon, but that is something I normally do. I weighed out all the ingredients, which made clean up so much simpler! I also used my scale to make sure the amount of batter in each cake was even. I love my kitchen scale, it has made a significant difference in the number of dishes I need to wash, the time to gather the ingredients and the accuracy of my measurements.

I knew I didn't want to do a boiled sugar frosting, mostly because my parents were in town and I didn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen. That left me with a no cook fudge frosting and a chocolate buttercream. I just made some buttercream frostings for the cake truffles, so I went with the fudge frosting.

The recipe (from the Better Homes and Garden's cookbook) called for about 2 pounds of confectioners' sugar sifted into the mixing bowl. Then softened butter, boiling water, cocoa powder and vanilla are added. The sugar just about filled up my stand mixer and I am thinking 'this can't be right.' Most recipes mix the ingredients without the confectioners' sugar, then add it slowly. Despite my gut feeling, I followed the recipe anyway...and you know what happened!?!?! \

Thats right, a huge mushroom cloud of confectioners' sugar and a squeal from me. Following by laughter. I can't believe how stupid I was!!!! Sugar all down my pants, on the floor, over the counter. I think some even flew up onto the cabinets above. All that from just barely turning on the mixer to the first setting for a millisecond. I had to go outside and brush myself off before attempting to clean up the rest of the mess. My husband was not surprised at the mess I made. I agree that I have a tendency to cover the counters with whatever I am working on, but I think this was by far the biggest mess I've made yet!

So after wiping up everything I could, I went back to the frosting, determined to make it work. Rather than using the mixer, I used a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together until most of the confectioners' sugar had been incorporated. Then I guess as to how much of it went flying and tried to add that much to the frosting. I added a bit of milk to adjust the consistency and managed to save the frosting. Near disaster averted...sorta.

I gave my husband two options with regard to the cake. Either I can level off the two layers to make them perfectly flat (and loose some cake in the process) or I could decorate them as is and it be slightly domed. He opted for the version with the most cake (and who would blame him!). I used the frosting as the filling and made sure to use extra around the edges to compensate for the slight bump in the layers. In the end, the difference wasn't really noticeable.

I frosted the rest of the cake and made a few decorations with a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. I am confident in my cake baking abilities and know everything tastes really good, I just need to keep practicing with my decorating skills. Each time I decorate it gets better so I need to keep at it!

My husband and parents really loved the cake. It was moist and crumbly and the frosting was nice and chocolatey. I got many complements on it and couldn't be prouder!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Challah Bread and French Toast

I haven't made any bread in a little while and I knew with my parents in town it would be a great time to make something for them. I also wanted to make a nice breakfast one morning, so I simply combined the two ideas...challah french toast.

In between running back and forth to the festival on Saturday, I managed to make a beautiful braided loaf of challah. It could not have been simpler, yet it came out so elegantly! The stand mixer is a life saver when it comes to kneading the dough. I use my dough whisk to get all the ingredients put together then let the mixer do its job. After the initial rise, I divided the dough into three pieces and rolled them into long ropes before braiding them together. Another rise and an egg wash later and it was ready to bake.

Pictures will be posted soon of this gorgeous bread. It is by far my best yet. The texture and color and size were perfect. I was so happy I may have done a little happy dance.

Sunday morning was cinnamon and nutmug french toast. I can't even remember the last time I had french toast, much less made it. It definitely hit the spot, though and will have to return to my meal rotation with some sort of consistency. Overall, the bread and breakfast were just perfect!!!

Cake Truffles Update

I know I am a little behind, things have been crazy busy. Last week, I was working on all the cake truffles and chocolate covered pretzels for the Church festival and then Friday night my parents came in to town and I have been moving nonstop! But I have a few minutes now while I am waiting for my next step at work to write a little here.

Thursday night, I made another apple spice cake so that I could add some cake to my frosting and cake mixture from Wednesday night. I did that first thing when I got home so I could also have enough time to make my fudge chocolate with mocha buttercream truffles. After cooling the cake, I went to get the mixture from the night before out of the fridge and lo and behold...the mixture looked firm enough to form into balls. So I didn't end up adding any cake to that mixture and I went along as planned.

I formed the truffles and placed them in the freezer overnight to harden and the same for the chocolate mocha truffles. Friday night was meant for dipping all those truffles. It was a crazy night, let me tell you! I dipped the apple spice cake/vanilla buttercream truffles in white chocolate and dusted the tops with crushed graham crackers. The fudge cake/mocha buttercream truffles got a coating of dark chocolate and were finished off with a swirl of milk chocolate as a decoration. Then I also dipped two bags worth of pretzel rods into milk chocolate.

I got most of that done before my parents showed up late Friday evening. But I still needed to bag everything up and put ribbons on them. Since I wasn't going to be at the festival to sell the truffles and pretzels, I figured it would be better to have portions ready for sale. I portioned out 4 pretzels per bag or 2 cake truffles per bag. Then put different colored ribbons on them so that I could make a sign to tell everyone exactly what was in each bag.

I dropped off my goodies at 9AM on Saturday morning. We chose $2 per bag for both the pretzels and the truffles. Since I had family in town, I went to spend time with them, but we all made a trip over to the Festival at 12:30 and only two bags of pretzels were left (out of the 28-30 I brought) and about 2/3 of the cake truffles were gone. I made about 28-35 bags for each of the three types of truffles. So that was a lot of stuff that sold! Especially since there were three 10 foot long tables filled to the gills with baked goods. But the people there said they were getting great comments about my chocolates and they were handing out my business cards that I just had printed up.

So I spent the last week or so really stressing over whether people would like my contributions or not for nothing. It really could not have gone much better. Now I just hope I get a few calls or emails from people looking to buy more!!!